After Tuesday’s surprising trade of CJ McCollum to the Pelicans, one theory emerged in phone calls to executives around the league: Perhaps, as the theory goes, Lillard doesn’t want to be part of it. Perhaps the Blazers and their star do want a divorce, but neither wants the bad press of being seen as the instigator. Some sources told me they are sure this is the case. (Amin Elhassan shared the same theory on the Habershow.)
In the wake of Portland’s steady purge of veterans over the past few days, multiple teams have called the Trail Blazers to try to engage them in Damian Lillard trade talks before Thursday’s 3 PM ET trade buzzer, league sources say.
The rising expectation from the outside is that Lillard is unlikely to return from abdominal surgery this season with the Blazers clearly playing for draft position now. Harder to forecast is what happens this summer, with Lillard still faithfully pledging his loyalty to the organization and the city while potential suitors continue to tune out those proclamations in hopes that he will eventually ask to be traded,
This is the current understanding of Lillard’s thinking about Portland. He won’t demand a trade because he won’t run from the grind. The logic felt strained over the summer, to the ticking clock of his prime years, and his urge to win a championship. Now–barring another big deal before the trade deadline—with the Blazers talking about lottery picks and youth, a search of the word “Dame” on Twitter mostly turns up stuff like this: It’s almost as if Blazers management were begging Lillard to force his way out. A theory going around the NBA: that’s exactly what they’re doing.
There’s another negotiation happening. Lillard is eligible for a historically large contract extension this summer. To get the biggest possible income, he’ll have to sign with the team he’s on; free agency would cost him tens of millions. In the seasons when he’ll be 35 and 36, Lillard could make more than $50 million per year. “The smart money,” says one source, “is that Dame wants to make the most he can.”
There have been mixed reports about whether or not the Blazers are willing to give him this extension. If Lillard has assurances Portland will offer the full extension on July 1, and Lillard wants a trade, the time to demand the trade, says a source, would be July 2, when the new deal is signed. This could explain Lillard’s going along with the Blazers plan in his public comments.
There are no plans to trade Damian Lillard, a source familiar with the situation told SI, and teams have stopped asking. But Portland knows it needs to show Lillard something. Buzz among NBA execs is that the Blazers will turn their attention to Pistons swingman Jerami Grant. Grant’s salary ($20 million) fits into the trade exception, he’s under contract for next season and a Lillard/Grant/Anfernee Simons trio on the perimeter is a decent foundation to build on.
Damian Lillard: For me, my heart is Portland Trail Blazer. I want to win it. I know that I have a plan that’s going to put me on my best level when I come back to play. And I want our team to fit that. I’m a huge fan of Chauncey Billups. I love Chauncey, we’ve got a great relationship and I think he’ll continue to grow into the head coach that he wants to be. And I’m a Joe Cronin fan. In his position I think it takes being bold and doing bold things, doing what you see fit and standing on it. He’s told me that our plan is to build a winning team, not to rebuild. Because we had a prior relationship to him becoming GM, I trust his word.
What’s more, sources say that two of the Sixers’ other short-list targets — Lillard and Washington’s Bradley Beal — remain out of reach. Both the Trail Blazers and Wizards have recently indicated that they’re not willing to discuss their stars with the Sixers.
Aaron J. Fentress: I've been told numerous times that Damian Lillard is absolutely onboard with the retooling of the Blazers roster given that this season is a bust. I suggest that panicking fans all up in their feelings simply relax and let it all play out. That's what Lillard is doing.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Portland's plan is to fully reshape roster around Damian Lillard now. Portland created a $21M trade exception today, potentially $60M in salary cap space this summer, multiple draft picks and assets via Pels and Clippers trades. Plan is to pursue high-end talent now, not retreat.
Marc Stein: This much is clear in Portland: Teams will be emboldened to pursue Damian Lillard in the offseason once the Blazers complete their expected trade of CJ McCollum to New Orleans. Can't speak to Lillard's intentions but he'll be chased even harder now.
Sean Highkin: Jusuf Nurkic: "I feel OK about [the long-term direction] because Dame's here. And as long Dame's still here, I know they'll be trying to win."
Chad Ford: I don't actually think that - at least nothing that I've heard of - has Damian Lillard insisting that it has to be Philadelphia, that he goes to. In fact, everything that I've heard is that he would prefer a move to the West coast or to stay on the West coast.
I can't find a team out there these days that believes Morey is bluffing about keeping Simmons past the deadline to A) first make what sounds to outsiders as a rather hopeless attempt to convince Simmons to rejoin the team for a playoff drive and B) more importantly retain Simmons to offer him as the centerpiece of offseason trade pitches for the likes of Portland's Damian Lillard, Washington's Bradley Beal, Boston's Jaylen Brown and, of course, Brooklyn's James Harden
Dame is also extension eligible this offseason. So how does this injury impact his future plans here? Brian Windhorst: This is something that obviously we're talking about $100 million decision in the offseason to add two years to his contract. That is obviously going to be something discussed very deeply in the coming weeks. However, in talking to folks around Dame, this is not something that Dame is worried about. Dame is trying to get healthy. Dan wants to remain in Portland, and the contract extension will come as a normal course of business as most players who have two years left on their contract.
Adrian Wojnarowski on the Blazers: They've been very active in the trade market. They want to continue to build around Damian Lillard. They've had discussions on players like Robert Covington or Jusuf Nurkic.
A whiff of winning, in such a competitive business, naturally creates a hunger for more. A faction of the Knicks front office even lobbied for an aggressive pursuit of Damian Lillard this past offseason, league sources told B/R, just as Philadelphia and other suitors helicoptered his status in Portland.
Does Cronin have the power to trade All-Star Damian Lillard? The consensus is no, and there's no expectation Portland will move Lillard. If that's the case, the Trail Blazers would need to include McCollum's $30.9 million salary to Philadelphia for Simmons.
Numerous teams are watching Portland intently to see how the Trail Blazers handle Damian Lillard’s ongoing issues with an abdominal injury, since an extended absence or a potential surgery — avenues that the Blazers have resisted to this point — would certainly have a significant impact on their trade deadline approach.
More than four weeks are left in this trade season for the Sixers to amend that stance, but the vibe they continue to emit — no matter how loudly outsiders push back — is that they believe waiting can indeed enhance their chances of acquiring a Damian Lillard or a Bradley Beal for Simmons. As it stands.
Chris Mannix: There's never really been, from what I've been able to gather any type of de-commitment from Jaylen Brown. He's been frustrated. He's been out of the lineup. And he's only got one I think a couple of years left on his contract. The idea that they're gonna move Jaylen Brown, I think it would take something huge. Like Damian Lillard level huge.
Damian Lillard has preached his unwavering commitment to the Portland Trail Blazers, but the Sixers and other teams around the league remain optimistic he could eventually request a trade prior to the 2022-23 season. Philadelphia just needs one other All-Star to seek a new team.
As the Philadelphia 76ers begin to gather momentum in trade conversations for All-Star guard Ben Simmons, the Portland Trail Blazers reiterated that one of the Sixers' top targets -- All-NBA guard Damian Lillard -- is not available to be discussed, sources told ESPN.
The Sixers have long targeted Lillard, who reaffirmed his desire to stay in Portland around the start of the team's training camp. After the recent firing of president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, Cronin has publicly and privately said the franchise plans to keep building around Lillard. The Blazers have been open to discussing a deal for Simmons centered on guard CJ McCollum, but that conversation never gathered traction, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Portland Trail Blazers have made clear to the 76ers that All-NBA guard Damian Lillard is not available to be discussed in trade talks and franchise has no interest in moving him, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lillard has repeatedly expressed his commitment to want to remain in Portland on his current long-term contract, and interim GM Joe Cronin has also expressed a strong commitment to continue building the franchise around the All-NBA guard.
San Antonio’s efforts to crash the trade hunt for Simmons have been well-chronicled, but Philadelphia remains intent on holding out for Portland's Damian Lillard or another proven All-Star in a Simmons swap. While the Spurs clearly don't have one, it's nonetheless tantalizing to picture Simmons landing in the Alamo City so Popovich and Chip Engelland, San Antonio's renowned shooting coach, can lead the cause to rehabilitate the wayward Simmons' game.
Ros Gold-Onwude: At Trailblazers shootaround today Damian Lillard strongly addressed the rumors and noise: “I’m not asking for a trade.” “My intentions are to be in Portland and to figure it out.” He added he’s in the office w/ Chauncey everyday trying to find solutions, not planning an exit.
Philadelphia made an offer, but New York never did, league sources said. Lillard's reps offered mixed messages on the star's intentions to stay or go, and rival teams say that the star's camp had real concerns about Olshey's willingness to recommend the extension to ownership in 2022.
Yet there still remain internal concerns about Lillard's future in Portland. The last month of investigations and the team's poor record—now 11-14 following Monday's night's loss to the Clippers—combined with mixed feelings about Billups' leadership strategy, all while Lillard has struggled with a serious abdominal injury, has left an unsettled feeling among Blazers personnel despite Lillard's unwavering public commitment to the organization. A lot of work lies ahead.
Kyle Neubeck: Stephen A. Smith just said on NBA Countdown that New York is the one place Dame Lillard would angle for if he eventually wanted/asked out. Adds, “There are people in his camp who would like him to give Philadelphia stronger consideration.”
Damian Lillard: I've done so much in my career that I know that I have a great body of work. I will feel that way with or without a championship ring, but the reason I play is for a championship ring. So, I don't believe in the ring or bust thing, I'm not a fan of that, and that's why I don't play my career to that narrative. I'm not making every decision, like 'Oh I should do this or I should do that to get a ring', because knowing myself and knowing I feel in my heart and the way that I operate, I don't think it would be as fulfilling or as great of a feeling as I imagine it'd being if I felt like I got beside myself or stepped outside of myself to try to accomplish that.
Damian Lillard: I've had players around the league tell me, like, 'Man, you should go here or you should leave,' because they want it for me. Sometimes you have people around the league that you're cool with it that have experienced it or have not and see you as somebody that can do something different and have an opportunity to win it so they want that for you. So, they make suggestions and things like that but I think that at the end of the day they respect my stance. It's not in disrespect to anybody else who made a different decision, it's just in respect for me standing in what I believe and being able to deal with whatever the consequences are.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks thinks the Blazers should explore trading Lillard (video link). He believes Lillard may have peaked as a player, pointing to his age (31), huge contract, and the high number of minutes he’s played over the years. Marks thinks it could be worth it to try and extract maximum value for Lillard before it’s too late. However, he acknowledges that the situation will be very tricky for whoever takes over the front office, as Lillard is one of the best players in franchise history.
Some have even suggested that Olshey would have been willing to trade Lillard before moving McCollum, though that speculation will now remain a thought experiment permanently.
Kevin O'Connor: (Damian Lillard) goes from making these vague comments about, "Yeah, I don't know how long I'll be here" like weeks before the season to suddenly "I'm all in." There are front office executives around the league who think this is a strategic choice by the Blazers, Dame's group and all that in order to create leverage for the organization because right now around the league teams just want Dame. They don't they don't want CJ McCollum, they don't want Jusuf Nurkic. They're like, "We're gonna wait for Dame to demand a trade."
While Lillard waited for his Uber, James showed him the rest of the house and around the backyard. The Uber showed up after 20 or so minutes and whisked Lillard away. This much was clear: There was no way Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey would ever trade Lillard to the Lakers. Though joining the Lakers wasn’t at the top of his list, that Lillard took the meeting with James showed how much he respected the four-time NBA champion and how much he was receptive to the idea of trying something new.
“The whole time I knew I was a Trail Blazer, but obviously coming off that playoff loss, I was like, ‘We got to do something to show we’re actually trying to win it,’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports of his conversation with management. “There are so many teams in the league where some want to tank; some teams just want to be a playoff team and see if they can make things interesting; and then there are a few teams with the mindset of winning a championship.
“So for me, I was in that position where I was wondering if we’re actually trying to win a championship. I want to be a part of something where winning a title is everybody’s mission. I was asking my team, ‘Is that what we’re really trying to do? What are we doing to show that’s what we really want?’ Those were my questions, and I presented them that way. Like, ‘What are we doing? How are we honestly saying we want to win it all? What steps are we taking?’ I just had a decision to make.”
Lillard recalls paying attention to The Greek Freak’s every move when the confetti began pouring from the rafters. It helped reconfirm his initial desire. “Usually when people win championships and start getting all emotional, I’m always wondering if they’re really moved like that,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Is that real emotions? Does he really feel like that? Because I’ve been in big moments and people would expect me to be emotional and I’m not. So I question the authenticity of how emotional they are in some situations.
“But when I watched Giannis, he was really looking around like, ‘Damn, what if I really left Milwaukee? This was worth it.’ So for me, I put myself in his shoes. Sometimes it seems like this is impossible and it’s never going to happen, and I’m sure he was there before, too. “If I was to get that championship for Portland, I would cry, bruh. Bruh, on the spot. I would really cry, bro. I want to win a championship here. And because of how strongly I feel about that, I don’t know how rewarding it would feel for me at this point if I won somewhere else. Winning it here would be a lifetime achievement for me.”
The day before Lillard was to shoot his music video, he made a surprise appearance at a WNBA game, featuring the Los Angeles Sparks and Las Vegas Aces. Upon arriving, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was already sitting courtside. On the way to his seat, James stood up to acknowledge his “Space Jam: A New Legacy” cast member. The two shook hands and exchanged a laugh. Later that evening, James sent Lillard an invitation to his mansion in Brentwood. “He was like, ‘Pull up. Let’s have lunch to talk shop,’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “So I pulled up.”
Lillard’s future in Portland was in the balance at this point. He bled Rip City, but he was weighing all of his options. Through the years, James hasn’t been shy — publicly and privately — in relaying how thrilling it would be to share the same jersey as the Oakland native. The 6-foot-3 guard caught an Uber from his hotel to James’ house. After security opened the gate for the vehicle to enter the property, Lillard was met at the door by a house staffer who escorted him through the living room and into the elevator. The destination was the rooftop.
When the elevator reached the top floor, James and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis were sitting on one side of a table waiting for Lillard to join them on the other side. Before they fully dove into lunch of an Italian salad followed by pasta and a fine bottle of rosé wine, James kicked off the conversation, detailing his experience living in Los Angeles. Lillard did not categorize the meeting as a platform for a recruiting presentation, but rather an information-gathering forum among respected peers. “’Bron asked what I was thinking with my situation, and I told him what I’m telling you: that I just want to be in a position to win it all,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “He painted the picture to me that if I were to leave, the situation could look like this. He didn’t tell me to come to L.A., and he didn’t say anything to me that I didn’t already know other than what it could look like. I told him, ‘I know if I were to play with y’all, I know it would work out because of my skill set,’ and who I am and who they are.”
They all addressed their respective first-round losses, and what each team needed to improve its roster. Davis explained his transition to Southern California. Lillard expressed his hesitancy to join any iteration of a super-team. “I was just saying, I don’t know if this is the route I wanted to go,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And that was pretty much how the conversation went.” The meeting lasted for an hour and a half. Lillard promised to keep them posted on what he decided to do, but the Lakers were already privately evaluating their options on potentially landing Lillard, sources said.
"Honestly, it doesn't shift my focus either way," Lillard said. "During starting lineups, they were booing everybody and then they cheered when I came through. I thought that was funny. That comes with professional sports. It's fun, it's a public thing, so I'm not uptight about it or acting like I don't recognize it. "I know what it is and I know what it's about. But I'm a Trail Blazer. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever but I'm 10 toes in Rip City, and I've said that time and time again and tonight I laughed about it during starting lineups but that was that."
Billups admitted he heard them, too. "I mean, I wasn't surprised at all," Billups said. "When they were saying, 'We want Lillard,' I was saying, 'We do, too.' "I mean, I understand and I get it. Philly's got a great fan base, they pull no punches. I've always appreciated that about this city."
Justin Grasso: “We Want Lillard” chants breaking out at the Wells Fargo Center #Sixers #Blazers
Justin Grasso: The “We Want Lillard” chants getting loud #Sixers #Blazers pic.twitter.com/Z0wnZt2RFj
He hinted as much in a recent appearance on “Bars On I-95, in which he rapped his way to share his thoughts on joining a super team. He gave a special shoutout to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, who both defeated superteams and won the title despite not having the same star-studded squad. Here’s how his freestyle went, via Reddit: “Dame Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, trill… Me not wanting to join a super team might end up being my Achilles’ heel… Hector, I’m on my shield… Trying to get next to Freak and Dirk on that lonely hill… Now my goal’s revealed so fuck you, the reporters thinking my homies squealed…”
Lillard also became empowered under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, a former NBA player and LA Clippers assistant coach that replaced Terry Stotts after his nine seasons at the helm. “It was never out of hate or that we don’t like each other,” Lillard told NBA.com. “It was just, ‘This is how much I want to win it.’ So, once it was time to come back and I had a conversation with Chauncey and had a conversation with Neil, I’m not going to come back halfhearted. I’m going to come back and be all in.”
On the surface, Damian Lillard’s words captured preseason platitudes about the Portland Trail Blazers and their chances to win an NBA championship this season. “I’m optimistic. I’m a believer,” Lillard said. “And I love this organization.”
Malika Andrews: A snippet of our interview with Damian Lillard on NBA Today: “I just wanted it to be clear. It’s not one of those situations where I’m waiting for some adversity to hit… The last thing I’m thinking about is waiting for it to get tough and then bailing out on (Chauncey Billups).”
Lillard told The Athletic that a series of conversations with Billups over the summer helped center his thoughts back to Portland and what could happen if he stayed. Those conversations — Billups said it was five or six, some of them in person, some on the phone — dealt with basketball philosophy, strategies and concepts. But they also involved topics that penetrated to Lillard’s core. They talked about family, life after basketball, and the qualities found in a winner.
Lillard left the conversations inspired, encouraged and enamored. What he saw in his new coach was what he saw in himself. “I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”
As much as Lillard has recently tried to backtrack from his tumultuous summer by saying other people were putting words into his mouth, he acknowledged Friday that was indeed contemplating leaving Portland, even if he never publicly said it. “Yeah, I was upset,” Lillard said. “We lost to a team (Denver) I thought we should beat. I wanted us to show we really want to win. But I never said, ‘Oh, I’m leaving.’ I said, ‘If that’s what it comes to — if this is not what our real focus is — then maybe I will be forced to say all right, it’s not going to work.’ “But I never said I was leaving. And I never said this is not where I want to be. I never said that.”
Before their conversations, Billups said he was aware of Lillard’s unhappiness with the end of the Blazers’ season, and that his superstar might have been entertaining thoughts of asking out of Portland. But he said he never approached their talks as if he was trying to convince Lillard to stay. “I’ve never told Dame, or asked him, to stay. Nothing. I’ve never done that,” Billups said. “I felt like the biggest thing I wanted to do was share the things that were important to me. This is what I am. This is what I’m about. “Then, it’s on him to decide: Is it worth it? Or should I punt?”
Sean Highkin: Damian Lillard on speculation picking up if the team starts slow: “I’ll answer that the same way I answered it on media day. I’m not leaving Portland. … It’s an easy thing and a popular thing to say but it’s not gonna happen.” pic.twitter.com/zJJbSVuX8j
The organization probably feels like it’s gone well so you have two different sides to this and I think rival teams still believe he will be moved, it’s just a matter of time and one player that Philadelphia has monitored throughout the last few months and I think it will continue and the ball will continue to be rolled is Damian Lillard with Portland. I think there’s going to be a light going into this upcoming NBA season on the future of Damian Lillard and if Portland gets off to a rough start, like, I’ll tell you guys this if they’re not improved under Chauncey Billups this year, they risk losing Damian Lillard long term.
Philadelphia's loftier sights remain set on Lillard and Bradley Beal possibly growing dissatisfied in Portland and Washington, respectively, sources said. A far larger pool of players also become trade-eligible on December 15, then incorporating most of the newly-signed players from this past offseason. It seems the chances of any Simmons trade, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, will grow significantly larger in late December than anytime soon, barring any change in a rival team's circumstances.
League sources say that Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, San Antonio and Toronto (in alphabetical order) have been the most determined suitors for Simmons since last season ended. Morey doesn't appear to possess anywhere near the leverage in trade talks to demand the level of star he hopes will ultimately headline what the Sixers get in return for Simmons — namely Portland's Damian Lillard — but from the start he's been in a far stronger position than Simmons.
Indiana has been a legitimate suitor for Simmons, league sources say, and really should have been cited more frequently by yours truly along with the other teams (Minnesota, Toronto, San Antonio and Cleveland) that have consistently registered interest in the unhappy Sixer. Indications persist, though, that Philadelphia has been unmoved by the Pacers’ ability to offer Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert as the headliners of a trade package. No matter how unrealistic it sounds, Portland’s Damian Lillard remains the type of starry target Morey seeks.
Sam Amick: As our esteemed Blazers beat writer, Jason Quick, wrote recently, Lillard is focused on “going out on his shield” and trying yet again to take the Blazers to that elusive next level. His stance could certainly change if the Blazers get off to a bad start, but sources say Lillard wants to see how this early season goes while giving first-year coach Chauncey Billups a genuine shot at success along the way. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think Kyrie is going anywhere anytime soon. Especially because of the personal dynamics that are in play in Brooklyn.
Sam Amick: But as you both know, and has been said and written about plenty of times, the Lillard-for-Simmons swap with Portland that is widely seen as Morey’s dream scenario just isn’t realistic. Not yet, anyway. “You’re waiting on a prayer,” the source said of the Lillard scenario.
However, if Lillard contemplates a change of scenery, head coach Chauncey Billups would be the last person begging for him to stay. “I came here to coach you, but it’s your career, it’s your life and it’s your family.” Billups said on Sirius XM NBA Radio. “I’ve been there before, and I’m not going to be the guy preaching ‘Stay here, go there, do this.'” “I got a job to do, I want to do it with you, obviously. But if at some point you deem ‘Hey, another place is another place for me,’ that’s not going to be an indictment on myself. That’s going to be you making a decision for you and your family.”
SiriusXM NBA Radio: Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups reveals his message to Damian Lillard. Hear the Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview Show featuring Chauncey Billups and more tonight at 9pET on NBA Radio! @trailblazers | @1MrBigShot | @NBA | #NBA75
In the two months that followed their first-round playoff flop against Phoenix, when Davis’ groin injury left them pulling up lame, the Lakers explored the prospect of trading for such stars as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook. The process unfolded well beyond the team’s front office’s search, with James setting up a war room of his own at his Brentwood estate for some in-person player meetings while leading remote communications in other conversations.
The group focused first on Lillard and Beal, but with no viable path to trading for either of them, turned their attention to more realistic targets: Westbrook, DeRozan, Hield and Kyle Lowry, who would eventually pursue a deal with the Miami Heat instead.
There are many who believed then and continue to insist now that Damian Lillard was about ready to ask out; a source with knowledge of the situation believes Lillard is held back by both his loyalty to Portland and an unwillingness to go back on things he's already said about sticking things out. He ultimately decided to give this another go, and Lillard has been provided roster upgrades and had a big voice in the coaching search. He may still ask out down the road, but only time will tell how long this honeymoon lasts.
Damian Lillard: Back for more… #RipCity is my city
The 76ers were widely believed to be holding out for a chance to acquire Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers, but Lillard recently said he isn’t leaving Portland, “not right now at least.” As for Sacramento, sources have suggested the 76ers would only be willing to consider an offer that includes De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton. The Kings are unlikely to part with either player, but they can offer Buddy Hield, a prolific 3-point shooter who would space the floor for Joel Embiid; Marvin Bagley III, a former No. 2 pick who has yet to reach his potential; and other assets, including multiple first-round draft picks.
The belief around the league is the Sixers have been holding out for six-time All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard to request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. But Lillard said, “I’m not leaving [Portland] — not right now at least” on Wednesday during an Instagram Live stream.
Philadelphia has its eyes set on Portland All-NBA guard Damian Lillard, sources say, but the Trail Blazers have fully focused on continuing to build around Lillard. As of now, Lillard is continuing to evaluate the Trail Blazers’ present and future and is slated to begin training camp with the organization. In some ways, the 76ers are stuck between deciding whether to make a move now with Simmons — or waiting until a star like Lillard shakes free.
Scotto: When you talk to any rival executive, agents around the league, etc. the bottom line of the Blazers is Damian Lillard’s prime is on the clock. It’s like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny… Neil Olshey is going all-in on Chauncey Billups. This is his guy. They have a relationship dating back to their LA Clippers days together. He’s fond of Chauncey as a leader and thinks he’s the right guy for the job. Ultimately, he’s either going to sink or swim with that hire… CJ McCollum needs to become an All-Star for the first time in his career. He’s been knocking on the door. If they’re going to be successful, he’s got to average 23-25 points per game… Jusuf Nurkic needs to come back and dominate. There was a time where Nurkic was thought to be the third guy. He’s going to need to be that for them now.
Lillard opened up about the trade rumors and explained why he will not play for the Lakers anytime soon. “He said ‘I would bet anybody that when the season starts, Dame’s going to be playing for the Lakers.’ And the Lakers just traded for Russell Westbrook, so I’m not going to play for the Lakers. We play the same position, so [I was] like bet a million,” Lillard told Complex’s Pierce Simpson.
The question on everyone’s mind: Is Lillard going to ask out and leave PDX? So someone asked him when Lillard was on Instagram Live Tuesday night, and this was his response: “I’m not leaving PDX, not right now at least.”
Landon Buford: Damian Lillard on leaving PDX: "I'm not leaving PDX not right now at least," Says Lillard.
Sean Highkin: CJ McCollum on @Adrian Wojnarowski pod on Dame: "I don't want to speak for him, but having a close relationship with him ... I have a pretty good sense of where he's at. His goal is to win a championship. But ... he's all-in. At this stage, I can say he's all-in. He just wants to win."
Lillard goes by the name Dame D.O.L.L.A whenever he raps. This song will surely be a certified banger as the Blazers’ star dropped some solid bars. Dame could have dropped some hints that he is staying put in Portland after rumors swirled that he was extremely unhappy and might soon ask for a trade away from the Blazers. I’m the kind of man to lead his people To the promise land (Promise land) By any means, the hoop rock is not contraband We come from towels on the counter Dryin’ pots and pans and if you not the man Then you support, don’t try to stop the man (Nah)
There's certainly a possibility Lillard arrives at training camp, looks around Portland's locker room and determines the Trail Blazers roster has not been upgraded to his satisfaction. Yet there's a stronger belief in league circles that Lillard will at least venture into the regular season under new head coach Chauncey Billups, allowing him to revisit moving elsewhere before the trade deadline.
Each of Minnesota, Golden State, Sacramento and San Antonio has been consistently linked as a top Simmons destination, yet the overwhelming sense among league insiders continues to be that Simmons, for now, is expected to remain a Sixer once training camp opens on September 28—barring a change of temperature with Damian Lillard in Portland. That appears to be the ever-important undercurrent to what has been routinely described as a "James Harden-like" package Philadelphia is seeking for any Simmons return.
They have a temporary time advantage no one is talking about. There is a good chance the Lillard trade war, should it ever happen, comes down to the Sixers and New York Knicks. (And to be clear: Lillard is not available, and has not asked for a trade, sources said.) Other alternatives will pop up. Any team willing to trade all its future picks and swap rights can butt into the conversation.
As he takes part in the Olympics with Team USA and prepares for the gold medal game against Team France, he is neither happy nor upset with what has gone down this week concerning his Portland Trail Blazers. “Honestly I haven’t really dove too deep into it. I’ve really been focusing on here,” Lillard said Friday on a USA Basketball conference call. “There are a lot of things that are out of my control. When you go into free agency and things like this, you never know what’s going to happen. You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and try to convince guys to be a part of our team.”
The Blazers landed Cody Zeller and Tony Snell while also inviting Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay — all of whom played in China last season — to play for its summer league team. “Obviously, this go-round, we weren’t able to go out there and get some of the guys that we would have liked,” Lillard said. “You know, you go down the list and you go through the guys you like that are out there and haven’t committed to another team or that was a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you are doing, and I think that’s what we did.”
August 9, 2022 | 6:25 pm EDT Update
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the meeting took place this past Saturday, and Kevin Durant indicated that he could stay with Brooklyn if general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash were no longer there. Understandably, peers of Marks and Nash were not happy. “I get that players have more power these days, but I think it’s a little too far if he’s out here trying to get Steve fired,” said one coach, who was quickly reminded of Magic Johnson’s fingerprints on Paul Westhead’s firing back in November of 1981 and other power plays, some of which may well have been justified.
The head of basketball ops from another club was similarly displeased. “Livid,” he said. “Livid. He and Kyrie (Irving) basically told Sean they were coming (as free agents in 2019), and Sean did pretty much everything they wanted after that. Signing DeAndre Jordan for four years? That’s something Kyrie and KD wanted. Getting James Harden? Then getting a guy who should be a perfect complement to them (Ben Simmons) when Harden wanted out? Sean did all that.”
However, when asked if he would welcome Durant to his own club should he be attainable at a fair price, the exec paused and laughed. “Well … ” he said. “OK, you got me there. But, see, that’s the part of this that will always be hard for some people to grasp. I’m talking about the fans who just see the players as employees. These guys are not interchangeable parts. You can’t just plug in someone else to do what KD does.”
Marc Stein: Dallas plans to hire former NBA swingman Marko Milič — Slovenia’s first NBA player — to join the coaching staff in player development, league sources confirm. Milič obviously knows Luka Dončić well and played with Jason Kidd in Phoenix. More NBA from me: marcstein.Substack.com
Detroit Pistons center Kelly Olynyk is a married man! The basketball star, 31, wed his longtime love Jackie McNulty, 31, in a traditional, yet playful, outdoor ceremony at Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, California Saturday, as personal guests of the winery’s owners.